World War One was fueled by several causes. In 1898, Germany began to build up its navy.¹ The huge investment in Germany’s naval fleet scared the naval superpower of the world, Britain, who proceeded to set up alliances with France and Russia. This split Europe into two armed camps: the Entente Powers of Russia, France, and Britain and the Central Powers.¹ By the summer of 1914, the Germans were fully prepared to wage war.
After the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, Austria decided to take action against Serbia, which it suspected of being behind the assassination.¹
The Germans fully supported the Austria-Hungarians even though their support risked a war with Russia who supported the Serbs.¹ Germany declared war on Russia on August 1,1914 and a series of declarations split Europe into two sides: the Central Powers that included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria, and the Allies that included the UK, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the United States.
There were many important battles and campaigns waged during the First World War. One of them was the Battle of Verdun in 1916. This battle was a ten-month fight between the French and German armies that was unsuccessful for the Germans.² There were an estimated 540,000 French and 430,000 German casualties.²
The next significant battle was the Battle of Ypres, which was actually a series of three battles waged in 1914, 1915, and 1917. The second battle was notable for the first use of poison gas by the Germans.² The last battle was known for its devastating losses and has been named after the Canadian victory at the village of Passchendaele.²
The last important battle was the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The Battle of the Somme was one of the world’s bloodiest battles. Waves of British infantry were destroyed by German machine guns. The British suffered 57,470 casualties in the first day alone.² The British retreated, but more than 1 million soldiers from both sides perished in the fight.²
Low ranking soldiers suffered the most in World War One. They served as the grunts of the fighting and suffered the most casualties as well as put up with the worst environmental conditions.³ Officers were much better treated and were even cheerful in their letters home. Officers held camaraderie among each other and celebrated victories by drinking in messes.³
On November 9, 1918, the armistice was signed to begin on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Some argued that the harsher the peace, the better.4
The Treaty of Versailles began in 1919 and was extremely harsh against Germany and her allies. The treaty outlined that the German army was not to exceed more than 100,000 men and that aircraft, submarines, and tanks were outlawed completely.4 It must have been hard to predict at the time, but the Treaty of Versailles was the main underlying cause of World War Two.
1. The Origins of World War One by Dr. Gary Sheffield. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/origins_01.shtml
3. The Human Face of war by Helen Cleary. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/humanfaceofwar_gallery.shtml
4. The Ending of World War One, and the Legacy of Peace by Martin Kitchen. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/war_end_01.shtml